Every now and then you rediscover a verse in Scripture that makes you want to stand up and shout the praises of God to the whole world. While researching for our study in the book of James I ended up becoming reacquainted with Jeremiah 9:23 & 24 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practice steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord.’ “
I studied this passage in at least two Old Testament classes, but somehow it got away from me, and the wonder of this text ended up as a few scribblings in the margin of my Bible. Though the text is a framework for the first verses of James it is also a comfort to those of us who profess Christianity.
I was struck by the idea that even though centuries separate us from the time of Jeremiah, human nature remains the same. Men were boasting in his time about their intellect, prowess, and wealth with the same passion and conceit that men boast about those attributes in our own time. I don’t think Jeremiah is saying there is anything wrong with keeping the body fit, the mind sharp and financially solvent, but when those pursuits become our gods at the expense of the true God, then there is a problem.
Since God gives all good gifts including health, wealth, and intellect then we should boast in the goodness and graciousness of God’s blessings instead of in the blessings themselves. It is interesting that every time something good happens to us how we are ready to take credit for it, but whenever anything bad happens suddenly it is God’s fault for not taking better care of us. That is unfair and goes against what we know about God, after all it is hard to say God doesn’t care when He went to the cross for us. It is in light of this confusion on the part of Christians that I find this text in Jeremiah so intriguing.
After Jeremiah says we shouldn’t boast in those outward gifts, he says we should rejoice and give praise, that we know and understand God because He practices, “steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.” And the text gets even better because we don’t have to drag those attributes out of God or hope that He doesn’t change His mind about those gifts, because the text ends by saying, “for in these things I delight, says the Lord.”
I’m awed by the reality that God says we can understand and know Him in spite of our sinfulness and self-imposed separation from Him. Our sinful natures put us at war with the love of God and yet He constantly continues to knock on the door of our heart and ask us to let Him in. He is “steadfast in His love, justice, and righteousness,” towards us. He never gives up or writes us off as a hopeless case. His love, justice and righteousness won’t allow Him to do that.
A close friend of mine is going through a heart-rending experience with a family member, but her love keeps her working, loving, praying and encouraging that family member regardless of her loved ones indifference. Jesus carries that same kind of love but magnified a million times over for us. Jeremiah tells us that only a wise person can understand and know God’s love for us and to put her trust in Him. The so called wise of this world are pursuing emptiness, but the wise put their energy into knowing God, and that knowledge takes us through the hard times as well as the good.